According to an exclusive report from Fox Sports 1, a scout for the Miami Dolphins is considering a lawsuit for allegedly being fired as a result of telecommuting to work in order to care for his wife who has Cystic Fibrosis, after recently losing healthcare coverage for her expensive CF treatment. According to Alex Marvez at Fox Sports, who broke the story, Nate Sullivan, a scout for the team for 17 years, was let go by new General Manager Dennis Hickey, who was purportedly dissatisfied with Sullivan’s working arrangement with the team — one that the organization agreed to previously in order to allow the scout to care for his ailing wife.
Marvez reports that Sullivan’s previous working arrangement, which began in 2004 when he and his wife moved to Central Florida to be closer to immediate family, has been agreed to and upheld by three previous General Managers for the team, including Rick Spielman, Randy Mueller, and Jeff Ireland. Sullivan reports that when he was fired by incoming GM Hickey, he was told that Sullivan’s arrangement to work at home in order to care for his wife “just did not work for him.”
According to an intent-to-initiate-litigation document sent to both the Dolphins and the NFL that Marvez and FoxSports exclusively obtained for their report, Sullivan and his attorney claim that his firing was not the first alleged action that discriminated against treating and supporting those with Cystic Fibrosis. The letter states that the team’s healthcare plan was revamped in April and specifically excluded coverage of Cystic Fibrosis therapies in the new policy. As a result, Sullivan’s out-of-pocket cost for his wife’s CF medication has gone from $10 a pill to $3,000.
The report on FoxSports adds that, while Nate Sullivan would ultimately like job and healthcare coverage restored, that he is prepared to seek damages from the team and NFL if the situation is not rectified, citing that the Dolphins may have violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Jason L. Harr, Sullivan’s attorney, notes that Title 29 of the Act specifically states “it is unlawful for a covered entity to exclude or deny equal jobs or benefits to, or otherwise discriminate against, a qualified individual because of the known disability of an individual with whom the qualified individual is known to have a family, business, social or other relationship or association.”
At present, neither the Miami Dolphins nor the NFL have gone on record to the media about the issue, and it remains to be seen how both entities will characterize Sullivan’s termination and justify the revamping of healthcare coverage to exclude onto Cystic Fibrosis drugs from their policies.
The cost of CF therapies has been an ongoing story in the news as of late, as drug developers continue to make promising inroads into treating disease, but at a cost that patients, public health organizations, and the healthcare industry are currently wrestling with. In addition, while CF is a high-profile disease philanthropically supported by many world class athletes and celebrities, including veteran NFL quarterback Boomer Esiason, whose son has the disease, advocates are likely point to this new, unfolding scandal as ongoing evidence that more work needs to be done to raise awareness of the disease.